Saturday, February 4, 2012
What Story Lies Under the Cemetery Slice of Marble?
When I am seeking peace and quiet there are times I go to a cemetery on the edge of town. It was unseasonably warm this past Thursday, Feb.2, so I decided to visit my haven. I was taking in the quiet beauty of the surrounding countryside when a car stopped a few hundred yards from me. A middle aged woman got out of the passenger seat, walked around the car and assisted an elderly man out of the driver's seat. She had a bouquet in her hand. She walked slowly with him, as he had a noticeable limp. They ambled over to a few scattered headstones. These several marble headstones were flush with the earth, no protrusion. Small and simple, maybe 24"x6".
The old man slowly bent over and began tidying up the marker, pulling grass that had begun to creep over the perimeter of the memorial. After he completed his task, she stooped and gently placed the bouquet on the grave marker. She stood up, assessed the placement and bowed again to adjust the flowers of tribute at just the right spot. They stood there, looking down, for several moments and then made their way back to their car. She opened his door and helped him into the car, closed his door, and after she entered her side of the car they drove off.
I wondered about their story. Who had died? What is the relationship between these two? What place of honor and love did the deceased hold in their lives? In light of their ages I surmised that they had come to honor the passing of his beloved wife of years, her cherished mother. I walked down to the site where they had paid their respects and the first thing I noticed was that the surrounding grave markers--all recessed into the ground as was this one--were commemorating the deaths of children. I will not make public the name on the marker; somehow to do so feels like it would invade their private sorrow. The date reads Febuary2, 1981. Most of the other markers contain the customary two dates--birth and death. Not this one.
This little girl died the same day she was born. Was this Grandpa and the still mourning mother of this child? The child was given a name and, most profoundly, a deep, deep place in the hearts of these two mourners. Feb.2. This was the anniversary date of this infant's death. I am led to believe that thirty one years ago, on this very day, this mother gave birth to this child, to hope and joy.. This grandfather was beaming proud and shedding tears of joy for his own daughter.
And within hours dreams were shattered and Grandpa was weeping for himself and his daughter.
What astounds me is this: it's been thirty one years. The baby lived outside the womb less than a day. How is such a deep, irrevocable attachment made in that brief a time that three decades later they are visiting the cemetery? Are there are times when the heart loves deeply and quickly and forever? Are there are times when one's entrance is so anticipated that their departure, though immediate, is never forgotten?
Frail infant girl, rest in peace. You are still loved and missed.
Mom and Grandpa, go in peace. My heart tells me you are still loved and missed, as well.